BRODOVITCH

Text and Photography by Harvey Lloyd

HL: This blog is part of a series entitled Secrets of Eternal Youth
with artist/photographer Ivana Lovincic.

Secrets of Eternal Youth

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BRODOVITCH

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Secrets of Eternal Youth is a Jack Kerouacian road trip through the mental universe with a merry prankster at the wheel. Lloyd is Coyote, the Trickster, who brings us the fire of imagination that is able to see the quantum foam of the universe in the dancing of Jackson Pollack—that allows us to feel the wild excitement of being alive. Secrets is an explosion of metaphor that reprograms our synapses, stretches our minds, and reminds us that we are all youthful poets.

 
Each HL Photograph Made by Harvey Lloyd During A Single Exposure
In His Digital Camera, Copyright © 2016

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MANHATTAN MAYHEM

Design Laboratory, 1958-1966

I took care of the legendary graphic designer and art director Alexey Brodovitch for the last 12 years of his life. Brodovitch had altered the course of photography with his transforming work at Harper’s Bazaar where he featured many later famous photographers unknown here. Penn and Avedon, two of the greatest photographers were his assistants at their beginning. Under his mastery, Harper’s Bazaar became world famous for its revolutionary design and photography, and very profitable.

He told Richard Avedon to take his work out of the studio. A famous image is Avedon’s photo of the top fashion model Dovima wearing an Yves Saint Laurent gown in besides a group of elephants in Paris. The photographer Munkacsi took models and camels in front ot the greenhouse in Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. The camels smashed the windows of the greenhouse at great cost to Harper’s.

DOVIMA WITH ELEPHANTS

Brodovitch was able to pull this off because the renowned editor Carmel Snow created a safe haven for his radical ideas.Upon her retirement in 1958, the forces of mediocrity overran the gates and Brodovitch was cast onto the street with no pension or separation fee. She had protected him. His genius and “my way, the only way” of working to make it the best made many enemies.

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TIMES SQUARE RIOT


I had been his assistant at his famous Design Laboratory Workshops. Now I managed his famous workshops to make him money to live on and I took care of all of his affairs. He moved into my apartment building at Union Square with his son Nikita. I spent part of every day with him while working at my profession of photojournalism. He drank too much and I had to see that he at enough food. It was a priceless privilege to be with him and learn from him. He always spoke of creating the future and of always being original, of courage and daring. “Astonish me,” was his advice to students.

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BROOKLYN BRIDGE


The Breaking the Light post abstract expressionist images named and worked on with me by my asssociate, the immensely talented artist/photographer Ivana Lovincic, are shown here are in honor of Brodovitch. The seeds he planted changed my life and my work. I created a new kind of totally abstract imagery, made for the first time with a camera in single exposures for each image. No other student, professional or learner went so far. It was what Brodovitch wanted, to create images that would “astonish him,” and help fulfill his prophetic, daring and radical ideas.

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SECOND AVE. NYC

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HOMAGE TO KLINE

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RCA BUILDING SUNSET

Despite his health, Brodovitch came to virtually every Design Laboratory workshop session and invited many of the famous in the fields of design and photography to meet the students. The students came from all levels of the profession to work and study with the renowned genius. He believed that anyone should be able to learn.

He said, “I am not a teacher, I am a can opener.” There was an aura about this slight bent over elderly aristocratic White Russian ex-cavalry officer who had fled the Bolshevik revolution. If you sensed it, you knew you were in the presence of a quiet, determined genius who let you share the gift of his dedication of his life to his art.

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BRODOVITCH IN DESIGN LABORATORY

Carmel Snow had said, “I saw a fresh, new conception of layout technique that struck me like a revelation: pages that “bled” beautifully cropped photographs, typography and design that were bold and arresting. Within ten minutes I had asked Brodovitch to have cocktails with me, and that evening I signed him to a provisional contract as art director” It was proved an imaginative and revolutionary decision. After an intense period of twenty five years of making the magazine world famous for design and photography, Snow left as editor and he was sent away.

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MOONLIGHT SONATAS

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ST. PATRICKS CATHEDRAL


Apart from the influence of his teaching and his personal photography, the major aspect of Alexey Brodovitch’s work that has had a lasting influence on photography was his work as the influential Art Director of Harpers Bazaar magazine from 1934-1958. He reinvented to look of magazines.

The new look of Harper’s Bazaar emphasized culture for its own sake. Taking advantage of Brodovitch’s contacts in Europe and his knowledge of photography, the magazine introduced the work of many artists and photographers new to an American audience including Jean Cocteau, Raoul Dufy, Leonor Fini, Lisette Model, Marc Chagall, Bill Brandt, Man Ray and poster artist A. M. Cassandre.

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BRODOVITCH MAKING LAYOUTS
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LOWER MANHATTAN SKYLINE

The Managing Editor of Harper’s Bazaar (Frances MacFadden) explained his working method:

“It was a pleasure to watch him work. He was so swift and sure. In emergencies, like the time the Clipper bearing the report of the Paris Collections was held up in Bermuda, his speed was dazzling. A quick splash or two on the cutting board, a minute’s juggling of the photostats, a slather of art gum, and the sixteen pages were complete.

               This disease of our age is boredom… The way to combat this is by invention – by surprise. When I say a good picture has surprise value, I mean that it stimulates my thinking and intrigues me.                                                                        -Alexey Brodovitch

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LIGHTWORKS, MIDTOWN NYC

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EARTH’S MOON IN HYPERSPACE

His layouts, of course, were the despair of copywriters whose cherished tone poems on girdles or minks had to be sacrificed to his sacred white space. Just before we went to press, all the layouts were laid out in sequence on Carmel Snow’s floor, and there, under his eye, re-arranged until the rhythm of the magazine suited him.” From these, each spread would be made one at a time, then arranged among the others to create a well-paced magazine.

“His style for the magazine was radically different, then and now.While the vogue for fashion magazines was to show the whole garment, Brodovitch would radically crop images or place them off-center in a layout to bring fresh dynamism to the spread.”

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BAZAAR COVER

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BROADWAY BOOGIE WOOGIE

Not having saved any money, Brodovitch tried free lance work, but his many clients would not accept his ‘my way or the highway’ work, brilliant and innovative as it might be. I remember a client coming to his apartment and requesting minor changes. He came back the next day and Brodovitch said, “Vell this is what you wanted,” and showed him the same designs. He had exquisite taste and an instinct for the choreography of images as seen in his great book of Avedon’s portraits of famous people, Observations, Portfolio and the many issues of Harper’s Bazaar. His short lived series of graphic art magazines, Portfolio.became an icon for art directors and graphic designers.

The picture represents the feelings and point of view of             the intelligence behind the camera. –Alexey Brodovitch

In the sixties, I recorded him and his many well known visitors talking to students using a cheap recorder. Brodovitch’s low voice with its thick Russian accent was difficult to understand. The recordings that I made have been reengineered and are are now available to hear at R.I.T.’s graphic design library in Rochester, New York. The decade was a pivoting point in the almost two hundred year history of photography. Penn, Avedon and many other well known photographers and graphic designers came and expressed bafflement at where to go next with their still film ocameras. Brodovitch said, “Vell, you must follow Gagarin and rocket into the future vit the Russian space mission.” These rocket’s engines blasted brilliant light and an infernal radiance into the Design Laboratory workshops.

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LITTLE ITALY NYC
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HOMAGE TO KLEIN
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BROADWAY, NYC

            Surprise quality can be achieved in many ways. It may be produced by a certain stimulating geometrical relationship between elements in the picture or through the human interest of the situation photographed or by calling our attention to some commonplace but  fascinating thing we have never noticed before or it can be        achieved by looking at an everyday thing in a new interesting way. —Alexey Brodovitch

Forty years later my work with the gifted, intuitive, creative artist/photographer Ivana Lovincic,Breaking the Light post abstract impressionist and abstract expressionist images emerge began as he challenged us to reinvent the art of still photography (www.harveylloyd.com). Each abstract image was made during a single exposure in my digital camera. As Ivana Lovincic who works with me and named the new art Breaking the Light said, “He (Brodovitch) planted seeds for the future.”

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WEST BROADWAY, SOHO NYC
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EAST VILLAGE, NYC

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CHINATOWN, NYC

There were Kandinsky, modern art and the New York School of Abstract Expressionists before, but no one had used a camera as a paint brush to do what Picasso said, “I do not paint what I see. I paint what I Imagine.” Only Brodoviitch before our own Breaking the Light break out of traditional still film technique and had in the thirties when Brodovitch made his famous Ballet Book out of blurred images of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and other ballet company performances in NYC.

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BALLET BOOK, BRODOVITCH
According to one colleague, his images “spat in the face of technique and pointed out a new way in which photographers could work.”He made no other book of his own photography. It was an early beginning of the earth shaking new way of seeing with a camera and roundly criticized. Near the end, when I (Lloyd) had him drying out at Riker’s Island, Brodovitch received a small Minox camera from an old student, Ben Rose visiting him. He slipped the camera in an old box of Pall Mall cigarettes and discreetly began to photograph his fellow patients.
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The series of bizarre black and white images of mentally disturbed patients became the opening section of the hour long CD with basso singing of the Russian Orthodox Church music, and narration in French and English of Brodovitch’s life and magazine work “Brodovitch,” It was made for an international photography festival in Arles, France. The festival director hated it and Brodovitch, and said the audiences here were unruly and would tear down the screen. They loved and it and stood up and applauded loudly after each section.
Brodovitch’s mind remained sharp and indomitable, true to his beliefs during those last years in New York City as during his entire career. It was the greatest privilege to take care of him and to learn from him. He loved New York and I had to make him leave to go to his brother in France, as he was wasting away near the end. I think we were both heartbroken, Brodovitch because he loved his New York, myself because he meant so very much to me. His like will not be seen again.
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